Seen from a distance it would seem that in American society some people are red, they watch Fox News and read the Wall Street Journal – and all their friends think alike; some people are blue, watch CNN and read the New York Times – and all their friends think alike. When Obama was elected the blues were happy that justice and truth won; the reds were in mourning that the better candidate didn't win and their vision of America and all they hold dear seemed threatened. When Trump was elected the reds were happy that justice and truth won; the blues were in mourning that the better candidate didn't win and their vision of America and all they hold dear seemed threatened.

The problem isn't that different people think and feel differently. The problem is that people live in a bubble: they live, work and socialize with like-thinking and feeling people, and rarely have friends from outside their bubble. American seems to be sharply divided into red and blue bubbles, with almost no real-life human connection.

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Like the scene in the 1993 movie Gettysburg, when an officer from Maine meets a captive soldier from Tennessee. Each admits that they have never been to the other's home state and essentially have never really even met someone from the other's home state. Each lived in their own bubble. However, whereas that would seem normal for first half of 19th century America, it seems less so for the 21st century, where communication and transportation are so better developed.


I think that there's something to be learned from my daughter's experience in the Israeli Army. Where my daughter is currently serving in the Israel Defense Forces, there are 13 girls in her 'crew' participating in the particular army course she is taking. For some of those girls – left-wingers from Tel Aviv and suburbs – she is the first religious girl they have ever really met. She is also the first "settler" – Jewish resident from a Jewish community in Samaria – that they have ever met. If it were not for the army – they might never have met a religious girl from one of those communities, or from anywhere. Because of their service together, as one crew in their army course, they have met and will get to know each other, and appreciate each other, in spite of religious, philosophical and political differences of opinion.

This is true of almost everyone in Israel who serves either in the army or in National Volunteer Service. They achieve two goals: first, it is a significant period of time in their lives as young adults that they spend doing something not for their own sakes, but rather they are serving others, doing something that is consequential for others and an important service for their country. Second, they leave the bubble they have lived in since birth and meet other people who live, work, speak, think and even eat differently than the manner in which they are used to doing.

When do Americans who don't serve in the army get the chance to really meet and get to know people from different bubbles?

Once, in one of the tours I guide in the Old City of Jerusalem, I met a young man wearing a West Point army jacket. He explained that had been accepted to the military academy and was going to attend after high school. I asked him why he wished to do so and he replied simply: I want to serve my country. Meeting him made me wonder: how many are like him, who wish to serve their country? How many young people are still listening to JFK's call not to ask what your country can do for you, but rather what they can do for their country? How many high graduates do volunteer service through AmeriCorps, that coordinates volunteer service in the US?

I think it would really help American society if after high school young adults would spend a year doing volunteer work somewhere in the country outside their immediate bubble. It would be an educational experience, doing for others, as well as learning about others. When blue and red combine they become purple, like a purple heart, signifying sacrifice and service for one's country and society.

Ignorance of the other is often the seed of hatred; familiarity breeds understanding and sympathy.

 
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